National Wildfire Preparedness Day was celebrated at the BX-Swan Lake fire hall recently.

National Wildfire Preparedness Day was celebrated at the BX-Swan Lake fire hall recently.

Hall urges wildfire caution

Living in area with the highest risk for interface fires in the North Okanagan, BX and Silver Star residents are urged to take caution

Living in an area that has one of the highest risks for interface fires in the North Okanagan, BX and Silver Star residents are urged to take caution.

“The biggest threat would be the BX Creek area to Silver Star,” said Bill Wacey, BX-Swan Lake fire chief. “There are hundreds of homes up Silver Star Road.”

With only one-way in and one-way out for the majority of residents, a wildfire could be devastating in the area.

Which is why, in celebration of National Wildfire Preparedness Day, residents are urged to do what they can to mitigate the risk.

“Remove branches that are down right on the ground level, cut and pull the brush away from the house,” urges Wacey.

But in the event that an interface fire were to take place, BX-Swan Lake Fire Rescue is the best prepared in the region to respond.

The department owns a sprinkler protection unit – a trailer which can be deployed to set up sprinklers to protect homes in an interface fire.

“We have enough protection in the trailer to do up to 20 homes,” said Wacey.

It’s a unique piece of equipment, and the first in the North Okanagan.

“There’s very few of them in the Southern Interior,” said Wacey, who runs one of only three.

“It’s another really good tool to have in the tool box.”

Purchased in 2012, the unit hasn’t been needed locally, yet. But it has been lent out to other departments, such as Williams Lake last year.

And the result of having such a unit on-hand can make a drastic difference, according to Wacey, who is also the structure protection supervisor with Emergency Management B.C.

“I’ve seen these trailers do fabulous things.”

He recalls a rank 6 fire which he attended to set up a similar sprinkler protection unit at, but with little hope that it would do much to protect the structure in the area considering the intensity of the blaze.

“We didn’t expect anything to be left,” said Wacey, who returned the next morning to see an area devastated by fire with the only remaining greenspace being that around the cabin, where the sprinklers were set up.

The unit at the BX-Swan Lake fire hall is available for other department’s to use. And considering there haven’t been any major fires in the region for a while, it is a possibility that the unit will get some use this year.

“We are long overdue,” said Wacey, adding that it has been a drier spring than normal, which only increases the risk.

Meanwhile, there will be a storm of activity brewing at the BX fire department this year.

Construction is expected to begin at the end of May for the addition to the 40-year-old building.

Two new truck bays, four offices and a second-storey meeting room/training space will be added with the 3,500 square foot addition.

“There’s very much a lack of training space/classroom space for us,” said Wacey of the existing structure.

The hall will remain fully operational, with the existing bays intact, but office and meeting space will be moved into a trailer. The project is anticipated to be completed sometime near the end of the year.